As we all know, tissue damage from hypoxic ischemic injury during a heart attack leads to ongoing problems, like congestive heart failure.
Once heart muscle is damaged, neighboring healthy tissue will become damaged too, due to the “bystander effect.” This can turn what might be relatively minor heart damage into major, life-threatening damage.
So the question becomes: is it possible to stop this “bystander effect” in its tracks?
Medical researchers at Virginia Tech think they’ve discovered something that will turn the answer from a “no” to a “yes.”
A study published recently in the Journal of the American Heart Association explains how research initially meant to develop solutions for chronic, non-healing wounds led to this finding.
Robert Gourdie, director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, says he and his team discovered a peptide, alphaCT1, which holds great promise for skin regrowth.
That was a decade ago and seemed exciting enough. So exciting, it led Gourdie to establish a new company to bring alphaCT1 to the market. They are now in phase III clinical trials for wound healing.
In the process, they stumbled upon a variant of alphaCT1 – alphaCT11 – that was even more effective.
Knowing the mechanisms for skin regrowth and repair are relevant to heart tissue, Gourdie and his team started experimenting.
Keeping isolated mouse hearts beating for several hours using perfusion, the team discovered AlphaCT11 actually prevented the bystander effect. AlphaCT1 didn’t, but alphaCT11 did, even when given a full 20 minutes after the initial ischemia.
They knew they were onto something with enormous potential.
"AlphaCT11 could provide the basis for a new way to treat heart attacks and prevent the spread of damage that occurs immediately after a heart attack," said Gourdie.
Lots of research lies ahead. This is by no means the end of the road, rather the beginning of what might turn out to be an impactful treatment for millions. Stay tuned!
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